BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul has had a renewed focus on broadband initiatives with her January announcement of at least $1 billion in broadband funding for a variety of projects.
The governor also established the "ConnectAll" office, which is an extension of Empire State Developments, which is the parent agency of the NYS Broadband Program Office.
That renewed focus, however, doesn't seem to be translating into responses to the state broadband survey.
The state launched its "Mapping Survey to Examine Quality and Availability of Broadband Across the State" back in September.
This came to be after the state legislature included funding in the 2021-2022 budget, which was ultimately signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to conduct a comprehensive study of broadband availability in the state.
"With this groundbreaking study, we will help ensure that every part of the state — regardless of geographical and economic factors — has access to high-speed broadband," Governor Hochul said in the September announcement of the study and survey.
Since the launch of the survey, only 23,000 households or businesses have completed the survey, according to a spokesperson for the Public Service Commission, the agency conducting the study in coordination with a private company called ECC Technologies.
The study will look at the following broadband-related issues, according to Governor Hochul's announcement in September.
- Identify areas at a census block level that are served by a sole provider and assess any state regulatory and statutory barriers related to the delivery of comprehensive statewide access to high-speed internet;
- Review available technology to identify solutions that best support high-speed internet service in underserved or unserved areas, and make recommendations on ensuring deployment of such technology in underserved and unserved areas;
- Identify instances where local governments have notified the Commission of alleged non-compliance with franchise agreements and instances of commission or department enforcement actions that have had a direct impact on internet access;
- Identify locations where insufficient access to high-speed internet and/or broadband service, and/or persistent digital divide, is causing a negative social or economic impact on the community; and
- Produce and publish on its website, a detailed internet access map of the state, indicating access to internet service by address.
The survey concludes on March 18, and lawmakers are now pushing their constituents to fill it out so the PSC has as much data to work with before the overall study concludes.
A spokesperson for the PSC says the commission is encouraged by the survey responses submitted thus far.
The information in the survey responses will be used to supplement the data submitted by service providers and in some cases a physical check if access is available at a property.
Senator Sean Ryan (D, 60th District), who was one of the lawmakers who spent years pushing for a broadband study, urged New Yorkers to take the survey, even if they have service.
"We know we won’t get every household in New York to complete the survey – but the more people we can get, the better data we’ll have, and the better equipped we will be to get all New Yorkers connected," Senator Ryan said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Senator George Borrello (R, 57th District) sent a mailer to his constituents urging them to fill out the survey.
We can only close broadband gaps if we know they exist," Senator Borrello said. "Broadband access is an essential tool for modern life and the survey process is a crucial first step.”